DAVID SMITH - Monday, October 24, 2011
Mikkel Diskerud and Stabaek did their part to delay Molde's inevitable title celebrations, while Steve Clark and Hønefoss can begin celebrating after a win over Mjøndalen secured their promotion.
Stabaek IF 1 - 1 Molde FK
Mikkel Diskerud played the full game in central midfield for Stabaek on Thursday night, as a gritty come-back draw against Molde prevented their visitors from cracking the celebratory bottle of champagne.
Molde defender Josh Gatt is out for the remainder of the season with a hamstring injury, while Sean Cunningham was not included on his team's bench for the game.
Molde looked on their way to confirming their first-ever championship when they jumped to the lead after 20 minutes. Magne Simonsen battled to keep possession just inside the right side of the area, then dropped the ball back to Jo Inge Berget, whose low shot slipped by two defenders and the Stabaek keeper on its way into the goal.
Ten minutes into the second half, Stabaek pulled even when a lunging shot by Gilles Ondo was deflected to the side by Stabaek keeper Espen Bugge, where Alain Junior Ollé Ollé slid in for the goal.
Molde can be glad they do hold a large lead in the title race, as they will enter the final three games of the season a potentially depleted squad. Midfielder Magnus Wolff Eikrem was forced out with an apparent injury five minutes before the half, and defender Knut Olav Rindarøy left the game five minutes after Ollé Ollé's goal with a knock.
Worse than the injuries, however was perhaps the 74th-minute sending off of Kristoffer Paulsen Vatshaug for a second bookable defense, likely leaving the team very short-handed in the near future.
They did hang on for the draw, however, giving them an eight-point lead over their nearest competitor with three games left, although with two of the teams chasing behind still set to play midweek make-up games.
If results go their way, Molde could still feasibly celebrate their first-ever title on Sunday when they host seventh-place Strømsgodset.
Hønefoss BK 3 - 0 Mjøndalen IF
Steve Clark and Kenneth Di Vita Jensen both played the full game for Hønefoss on Sunday, as a strong win at home over Kyle Helton and Mjøndalen IF all but mathematically secured their spot in the Norwegian top flight next season.
Mjøndalen midfielder Helton also played the full game, shifting inwards from his recent role on the wing to see time in the team's central midfield.
Looking to lock down the result, Hønefoss jumped to an early lead when Kevin Larsen aimed a low cross from the right flank to the center of the six-yard box, where Stian Sortevik leaned down to head low over the line for the sixth-minute lead.
They doubled the advantage ten minutes later after Mjøndalen keeper Anders Larsen tripped up Di Vita Jensen as he dove out for the ball, allowing Rune Bolseth to nail his shot from the spot for 2-0.
Five minutes before the half, they added a third goal for good measure, effectively ending the game after Frode Lafton pulled down a long ball at the top edge of the box, and having drawn the attention of the opposing keeper, slid the ball over to Remond Mendy for an easy walk-in goal.
The game calmed down after the break, with Mjøndalen having no real need or motivation to try for a miraculous comeback, and Hønefoss happy to ride out their victory.
The win combined with a blow-out loss by nearest challengers Ham-Kam gives Hønefoss a three point lead with one game left. However their vastly superior goal differential means that even should the two teams end even on points, Hønefoss will almost certainly go through barring what would amount to a nearly impossible 16-goal turnaround.
They will take a victory lap next weekend with a trip to last-place Løv-Ham, before beginning to plan for their imminent return to the Tippeligaen.
Tenth-place Mjøndalen will finish in the lower half of the standings, however they are fully safe from relegation. They will close their season on Sunday when they host fifth-place Ranheim.
Sogndal backup keeper Joseph Bendik did not take the field for his team on Sunday as they shared the points with their hosts Tromsø IL in a scoreless draw.
Jonathan Borrajo is still gaining full fitness after his ankle injury, and was left on Ham-Kam's bench on Sunday as their hunt for promotion effectively ended with an anticlimactic 4-1 loss at home against Sandefjord. Colin Burns was on the bench as backup keeper for the visitors.